Cabinet favors hiring Gaza evacuees

Settler council: 2,200 evacuees are currently looking for work.

evacuees in hotel 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy [file])
evacuees in hotel 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy [file])
The cabinet on Sunday granted evacuees from Gush Katif preference in hiring at government-controlled companies for the next year. According to the decision, state-owned companies must first turn to employment centers set up to find the former settlers jobs before they can recruit among the general public. If after two weeks no suitable candidate has been found, the companies must get written permission from the centers before they can advertise the position, consult with manpower agencies, or take other such measures. Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Ehud Olmert sponsored the motion. His office described the initiative as "a unique case" that resulted from the "exceptional and all-encompassing" nature of disengagement. The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip (Yesha) welcomed the decision but felt it wasn't sufficient. Some 2,200 evacuees, are currently looking for work, according to the settler council. The organization had pushed the government to adopt some sort of affirmative action plan but wanted it to include concrete requirements for employment. Its suggestion was that either 500 people, or 10 percent of all government hires in the coming year, be set aside for people from Gush Katif. "There's no guarantee that it [increased employment] will actually be realized," Yesha spokeswoman Emily Amrusy said, adding that there was no way to ensure that employers had made a thorough search for a fitting Gush Katif candidate before hiring someone else. But the chair of the Hebrew University's labor law department called the new government policy "much more extreme" than any type of affirmative action previously enacted in Israel. "There's nothing that gives a closed tender to Arabs, women, or any other group," said Prof. Frances Raday, who also directs the Concord Research Center for Israeli and International Law at the College of Management Academic Studies. The current law requires that both Arabs and women receive "fair representation" in civil service positions and on boards of government-controlled companies but sets no quotas, according to Raday. "It's an absolute preference," she said of the decision, criticizing the move. "If you're removing the requirements of open-ended tenders and you have nobody to compare the candidates with, it's not a good model for political appointments. It's a politically motivated appointment." In its announcement about the decision, the Prime Minister's Office stressed that only evacuees who "have similar qualifications to other candidates" would be hired. Amrusy argued that some form of assistance was necessary for evacuees because they tend to be older and therefore have a harder time competing for jobs. But the Association for Civil Rights in Israel warned against giving employment preferences to correct a short-term problem as opposed to rectifying a historical experience of discrimination. Affirmative action should be used "very rarely," said ACRI spokesman Yoav Loeff, who added that Gush Katif evacuees are "people who are definitely suffering, but they didn't suffer discrimination for years. "They got [government] compensation for losing their jobs." Providing affirmative action benefits for specific cases, he believes, "could be used for advancing groups on a political basis." Amrusy, however, said that former residents of Gush Katif needed a lift, which this measure would provide at least a little of. "It will make people feel that they have more of a chance," she said. "But we want people to really have options."